12 Things NOT to Do to Save Time, Money & Sanity


Here at Living Well Spending Less we talk a lot about the things you can do to save time and money, and hopefully your sanity. And while these tips can be helpful, I think sometimes we can end up with such a long list of things we are supposed to be doing that we become overwhelmed and stressed out.


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The older I get and the longer I write this blog, the more I am learning recognize the brutal truth that I can’t do everything. More and more, I am beginning to value the importance of simplifying, learning to say no, and of giving myself grace and permission to do less. In fact, I just finished writing a book about this very topic, called Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind & Soul.

As I was pondering this topic, I realized there are quite a few things that I don’t really do anymore that have gone a long way in saving me time, money and sanity. They are things that, quite frankly, I don’t even really miss.

Stop coloring your hair if you want to save money.

Cut or Color My Hair

When my husband and I met and got married, I was a blonde, but not a natural one. And let me just tell you—keeping that color looking good was practically a full time job. I’d get my roots touched up every four to six weeks, which not only took several hours each time, but cost a pretty penny too. After my oldest daughter was born, I went back to brunette, but still insisted on getting highlights and layers and frequent style changes, many of which weren’t all that flattering.

Finally, about five years ago, I decided to just let the chips fall where they may. I stopped fighting with my hair, embraced by natural color, and also realized that my fine-but-thick stick straight hair looks best when I don’t do anything at all.

Stop shopping if you're trying to save money.

Shop ’til I Drop

If you read my first book, Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life, you already know that too much shopping has been a very real struggle in my life. In fact, the fights between my husband and I about my shopping habits were what inspired me to start writing this blog in the first place! I used to make it to Target at least once a week (and usually even more), and the weekend wasn’t complete without at least one trip to the mall. I shopped for the sake of shopping, as a way to pass the time.

I’m happy to report that I don’t do that anymore. In fact, most of the time I avoid both Target and the mall like the plague, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I know I’ll end up with a whole bunch of stuff I don’t need. Instead, if there is something I really need, I will generally order it on Amazon through Amazon Prime, or for gifts, I usually visit a small local shop close to my office called Pomegranate & Fig. I have also found that using Stitch Fix has, for the most part, eliminated my desire to shop for clothes. Even though I usually only keep one item, knowing that box is coming each month keeps temptation at bay! (Plus it is super easy and convenient!)

Cook more meals to save money on food.

Cook Elaborate Meals

I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In fact, I purposely spend as little time as possible cooking meals! The truth is, we are not a family of foodies. Yes, we want our food to taste good, but neither my husband or I have any need for multiple courses or fancy fixings. Plain, easy, and tasty is just perfect.

My husband and I generally try to stick with easy freezer meals (our 10 Meals in an Hour plans have been a game changer!) or quick & simple recipes with five ingredients or less.

Limit your driving to save money on transportation.

Drive a Car

After totaling a car in a big accident a few years ago we decided to see if we could get by with just one vehicle.  As it turns out, it really wasn’t that hard. Yes, it does require a little coordination or juggling every now and then, and there have been a handful of times one of us has had to ask for a ride from a friend, but for the most part, it has been a non-issue.

In our small town, everything is close by, and while I do now work out of an office rather than at home, my office downtown is only about a mile from our house, and our tourist-friendly town has an extensive network of very lovely bike paths A few months ago, for my birthday, my husband surprised me with an adult tricycle that I can now ride to and from work, and that short ride has quickly become the best part of my day!

Staying bundled up during the winter will help you not get sick.

Get Sick

Hopefully I won’t jinx myself by writing about this, but finally getting healthy has been a huge accomplishment for me this year, and quite honestly, after several years of being sick almost continuously, I want to shout it from the rooftops!

So what made the difference? I attribute it to a couple of things. First, I started becoming much more intentional about getting enough sleep. I am an early riser, but I was burning the candle at both ends by staying up late too. Not anymore. Second, I started using essential oils every day, both to help with sleep and to boost my immune system. I also began taking a supplement from Young Living called Ningxa Red. I have (knock on wood) not been sick one single time since last September when I started using it!

Don't buy too many gifts around the holidays if you want to save money.

Go Crazy for Holidays

I’ll be the first to admit that in the not-so-distant past, I have gone more than a little overboard for the holidays. When I first became a mom, I wanted every holiday to be picture perfect and magical, beautifully decorated and full of special traditions. And inevitably something would go awry, or I’d spend all my time running around, and end up feeling stressed out and let down.

These days, while I am still a fan of family traditions, I have let up a lot on the “magical” and “picture perfect” requirements. Instead, I am good with a little imperfection, and with fewer decorations, fewer expectations, fewer presents, a scaled-back menu, and a lot more time to just relax.

Save money on gym memberships by working out outside.

Go to the Gym

There’s nothing wrong with the gym. In fact, when we were living in Seattle and my husband was working long hours as a Boeing engineer, the gym was my refuge. They had an awesome daycare and I could spend the whole morning working out, then taking a nice, long, relaxing shower without any interruptions. I loved it! During that season of life, with just one child, a healthy income, and lots of time to fill, there was no reason not to spend 3 hours at the gym each day.

Sometimes I miss those days!

These days, with two kids, a demanding full-time job, and an endless list of things to do, going to the gym just isn’t an option anymore. Instead, I have learned to squeeze in exercise when I can. In addition to riding my bike to work, I will often go for a very quick run first thing in the morning. It is usually just 15 minutes, but it is enough to get my blood pumping. For strength training, I use dumbbells or a kettle ball that I found for $8 at TJ Maxx. Cheaper than the gym, and a lot faster too!

This over the top birthday parts costs a lot of money with fancy straws and a dessert bar.

Throw Big Birthday Parties

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I am no stranger to big, elaborate, over-the-top birthday parties for my kids! In fact, at this CAKE party, which I threw for my daughter Annie’s 3rd birthday, one of my friends remarked, “It looks like Pinterest exploded all over your house.” I don’t think it was a compliment.

Even so, as my kids have gotten older and I’ve learned to relax a little bit, I’ve realized that they don’t really care that much about having a big birthday party (particularly because we don’t allow gifts!) The truth is, all that that effort I was putting in was mostly for me, not for them. These days we usually give them a choice between going on a little trip somewhere or having a few friends over for a small get-together. It is so much easier!

When we do throw a party these days, it is usually something pulled together quickly, using mostly the supplies we already have on hand, like this last-minute Peacock Party we planned in just two days. Sometimes perfection is overrated!

Shower Daily

I have to admit that I hesitated to include this one! It’s true—I don’t take a shower or wash my hair every day. I just don’t think it is necessary, especially on the days that I don’t do much physical labor or activity. Obviously your own situation may vary, but to me those 30-45 minutes are often better spent getting some work done. (And this DIY Dry Shampoo is the perfect way to keep roots from getting greasy in between washings!)

Spend time relaxing on the weekends to save your sanity.

Fill Our Weekends With Activities

As much as I like to be busy, my husband hates to feel like he is running around all the time. At some point I realized that for both of us to be happy, we would need to carve out a lot of downtime and blank space on our calendar. We made an effort to consciously begin cutting out and cutting down on the number of activities we committed to, especially on the weekends, and instead try to use that time to just re-charge, without having the need to go here or do that.

I can’t even tell you what a difference it has made in our lives! Our girls are now at the age where, left to their own devices, they can pretty much entertain themselves for an entire day, losing themselves in imaginary games, playing with Legos, or running around outside. This leaves Chuck and I free to read, work on projects, play card games, or even take a nap if we feel so inclined. And then, by the time Monday rolls around, we are ready to go once again!

Using coupons in the grocery store are a great way to save money.

Use Coupons

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I used to be an avid couponer. I wrote this Beginner’s Guide to Coupons, and when my kids were small, we would even make videos of our couponing adventures. For that season of my life, coupons were a good fit, and I was able to save my family a lot of money, getting our monthly grocery bill down to just $50 per week.

These days, money is not quite as tight, but time is definitely at a premium. While we still want to save money, we also don’t have time to spend hours and hours each week clipping coupons. Instead, we have learned to keep our grocery budget in check by vigilantly shopping the sales, meal planning, and freezer cooking.

TV should be a special treat to save time.

Watch TV

Years ago, shortly before we met, and before the advent of flat screens, my husband bought a gigantic 70” rear projection TV for what was then his house—the same house we live in now. I hated that thing from day one, and after we got married, I told him that we would have to figure out something to do with it, because I did not want to live in a house where the main focal point was the TV. It took us a while to finally get rid of it, but thankfully we have not had a TV in our living room since. Hopefully we never will!

We do have a TV in our bedroom, and while I do enjoy “vegging out” every now and then with a show or movie on Netflix, it is more of a special treat than a daily habit.

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While these are 12 things I have been willing to let go of in my own life in the interest of sanity, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically cut them out too. That said, I do hope that this list may inspire you to look at what things you do want to limit in your own life, or possibly even cut out completely. After all, at the end of the day, we all have the same 24 hours. By saying no to a few things that aren’t that important to us, we open up the space to say yes to the things that matter more.

We often spend a lot of time talking about the things we should do to save time & money, but have you ever given any thought to what things NOT to do? These are the 12 things I DON'T do to save time, money, & sanity--what are yours?

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What things don’t YOU do to save time, money & sanity in your own life?

We often spend a lot of time talking about the things we should do to save time & money, but have you ever given any thought to what things NOT to do?  These are the 12 things I DON'T do to save time, money, & sanity--what are yours?

12 Things NOT to Do to Save Time, Money & Sanity | Budgeting 101 | Money Saving Tips | Time Management


  1. July 10 at 08:54AM

    I don’t use cloth diapers. Not only is our water bill very high in our small town, but when I’m able to shop sales and stockpile disposable diapers, I’d much rather do that to save my time and sanity! Besides, to date, I’ve spent $75 on all the diapers for my 15 month old, so I’m doing just fine! 🙂

    • July 10 at 03:36PM

      HOW have you managed to only spend $75 on diapers? Please share! I despise coupons (other than the Kroger coupons that they mail to me or have on their app), so I usually just buy diapers through the Amazon Subscribe and Save program so that I’m at least saving 20%.

  2. July 10 at 08:59AM

    What a great list Ruth! I agree wholeheartedly with your points and do many of these things myself. We’re still working on cutting back the tv-that’s our trouble spot. Too often I tell myself it’s on for “background” and get sucked into a show while not accomplishing what I had intended. When you turn it off you can get so much more done!

  3. Anonymous
    July 10 at 10:11AM

    I love it when you shake up conventional wisdom, Ruth! I, too, have recently come to terms with the “Seasons” of my life that you write about. It gives me permission to NOT do what I’ve always done!! Keep up the good work – you are inspiring us all!!

  4. Sharon
    July 10 at 10:34AM

    I would love to have more information on how you use your essential oils. I have the starter kit from Young Living but don’t fee that I am getting the best use of it.

  5. MarcyB
    July 10 at 05:18PM

    I’ve stopped doing most of these things in the past few years and am better for it! I still watch a little TV but only a couple of programs each week. I’m 63 and was worried about no longer coloring my hair but it turned out that my natural color is a lot more flattering. And I adore my adult tricycle! I wore the first one out after 10 years so I’m on the second. My little Maltese dogs both fit in the basket if they don’t feel like running alongside. Thanks for this post – and thanks for the “permission” to not use coupons. Even now that I’m partly retired, I just can’t find the time for it.

  6. July 10 at 08:22PM

    I couldn’t agree more with not coloring your hair! It adds up sooo fast. I have never been able to fathom spending that kind of money. Cutting back on unnecessary beauty appts (nail appts, hair, tanning) could save tons!

  7. Anonymous
    July 11 at 12:35AM

    Thanks for the point about hair color. I have so many friends who get highlights, and had been considering it myself since my hair has darkened in the last couple of years. But you’re right – it’s a big investment of time and money, and I don’t have a surplus of either!

  8. Patricia
    July 11 at 01:26AM

    I am laughing at your friends comment about “Pinterest threw up all over your house.” I think that Satan uses yet another way for us to be dissatisfied with our homes, our bodies, etc. Extravagant Birthday Parties and over-the-top nurseries…the list goes on and on. I recently stoppped watching television, deleted 50+ Boards on Pinterest, gave away my 2 Kindles (what a time waster for me, as I love the games when I need ‘down time’. My relationship with Christ has grown because of the things I have let go of. Bless you for writing this article!

  9. July 11 at 10:58AM

    I actually color my own hair to save money! I am a bright blonde and just color my roots every few weeks, or whenever I have the time! I spent about $80 my first trip getting all the supplies and then about $40 every 6-8 months since then (depending on how often I touch up my roots)! Definitely a money saver!

    Cloth diapers have been a big money saver for us as well! We spent about $200 for our stash of diapers, and then less than $30 a month to keep them washed! With a newborn, and tight money, I don’t think we would be able to afford disposables!

  10. A lot of these are things I have also cut, or will be cutting in the fall when I begin teaching again. Specifically, we cut our cable and now have to make due with what’s on Netflix or Hulu. It isn’t a perfect situation since I’d like to reduce our TV time even more, but it feels great not having it as the focal point in our living room!

    The magic of Christmas is such a tough one for me, particularly because we are having our first child in December. I know I’ll have to work hard to not go overboard as baby gets older!

  11. Susannah
    July 12 at 02:31PM

    I’ve already given up (or never indulged in to begin with) many of these, except for my car. If I lived in an urban area where other transportation were available, maybe. But not where I live. Car keys — dead cold hands. Also, I’ve done the reverse with my hair: 3 years ago I gave up paying a fortune every 6 weeks getting my hair professionally cut & coloured & NEVER being happy with it to doing my own (sharp scissors & Nice’n Easy) and have never been more pleased. I’m in my mid-60s now & my hair (thick & healthy again) hasn’t looked this good in 2 decades. I’m very fair & my hair isn’t graying nicely so I see myself colouring for many years to come, but the blonde colouring & bits of gray blend beautifully for a great look. The biggest thing I gave up (years ago, actually): drama. Mine, and anyone else’s. I’ve pretty much eradicated drama from my own life, and don’t tolerate it from anyone else. Living drama-free just makes life so much simpler & better on so many levels.

  12. July 12 at 05:16PM

    I agree with this entire list except that we do still watch tv. We don’t pay for cable, though. We use TV mostly for educational shows for the kids, but the hubs and I still “veg” out in the living room most evenings. That has been one habit that has been hard to break but we’ve hardly missed the others.

    Thanks for sharing. Blessings to you and yours, Ruth.

  13. July 13 at 05:32AM

    The hair thing is totally true. It costs a lot of money quarterly to have hair cut, conditioned, dyed, etc. I tend to keep the simple hair style that requires minimal cutting or so. Actually the list is so comprehensive and provides great advice. Cannot agree more!!!

  14. July 13 at 09:22PM

    I completely agree with you about decluttering your weekends. As a teacher, I look forward to some relaxing time with my husband and kids on the weekends. We’ll typically just have one playdate/ dinner planned with friends and then church each weekend. It’s a good balance.

  15. Anonymous
    July 14 at 02:09AM

    This post made me laugh, and it’s thought provoking, too 🙂 well done!

  16. July 14 at 07:55AM

    We got rid of cable and hugely cut the amount of TV that we watch a few months ago. It’s been so great! Way cheaper, and we get a lot more done! Win-win!

    • Anonymous
      July 16 at 10:22AM

      I WISH my husband would just suck it up and let us get rid of cable. Everything we watch can be watched on our phone, ipad etc. We don’t actually need anything but interenet. How can I talk him into this? It’s like an arguement every time

      • Jenny
        July 21 at 03:17PM

        Try and challenge him! Say, hey, let’s test it out for one week – unplug the cable box and for one whole week only use Hulu, Netflix, and ESPN Online if he is a sports guy =) Even HBO has an app/movie system now! I use a FireStick from Amazon and it’s fantastic, but you can also get a Chromecast from walmart, Best buy, etc for $35. (I think there are online coupons for $5 off as well)
        I used to have Cable but I didn’t want to continue to spend $$$ on it. I was spending $40 a month on TV services alone – not internet/tv! Just cable services!! I am saving almost $500 for a year!! Find something you need or a family weekend away, and if you switch, save that money towards that item. In 6 months you would be good to go! =) Having that concrete reward really shows how much you save.

  17. July 16 at 09:22PM

    Wow! God truly brings us what we need in times of need! I was once very much like you in your 1st book. I spent to make me happy & once I had it, I was on to the next thing. In my case, it was a very unhappy marriage with a man who was (literally) a penny pincher. Now happily married to the most wonderful man, I am in an opposite situation, he loves to spend! After several years of showing him, I do my own nails & toes, stopped coloring my gorgeous curly hair , found a younger gal that costs a 3rd to trim it every 3-4 months and last but not least, the HORRIBLE B WORD, BUDGET!! I had surgery recently and was off work for 7 weeks. I did a total money overhaul! We have been donating & downsizing for several years. I have 2 online stores for selling items I know want or need. I put a stop to the credit cards, they are in the safe! They are quickly being paid off. In 18-24 months we will be debt free. Everything we buy we pay with cash or check. We no longer have lunch brought in & buy “take out” for dinner. We use are local Trader Joes for lunches & freezer food for dinners. It has saved so much it’s amazing. I just told my husband one day, this is what we must do, live within our means or below it! Then I found your book, Living Well Spending Less”. Thank you for helping me know that what I’m doing is correct. But most importantly, I’m not alone in what I used to do or feel 🙂

  18. July 16 at 10:30PM

    Living simply and cutting out lots of stressing extras is the way to go. It makes life so much more enjoyable. We don’t have elaborate holiday celebrations or cook fancy meals. We savor family time as that is what is important.

  19. July 23 at 12:48PM

    I agree with a lot of these but I especially agree with the hair one! I don’t get anything fancy done with my hair but I will not do it myself. I also do not cut our boys’ hair. I know, a lot of people do it to save money but it’s too stressful because we just cannot do it well. Both boys have crazy cowlicks and it just needs a professional touch to look right. So I chose to scrimp elsewhere and not have to stress about it.

  20. August 16 at 11:03AM

    I am with you on the not showering every day. If I haven’t gotten sweaty, I just don’t feel the need. One other thing I do to keep my sanity is to give myself permission to dress in workout clothes. On days my son isn’t in preschool, I frankly get a lot more done and am much more active with him if I am wearing clothes that I can move around comfortably in. Yoga pants are where it’s at.

  21. Julie Williams
    September 26 at 12:02AM

    I loved this article and am loving your blog!! So many great and inspiring posts. I’ve already bought and started incorporating some organizational tools and products. Thank you!!!

  22. January 4 at 02:32PM

    I do contract/part-time work. So when I have lots of work, I don’t coupon (and eat out of the freezer as much as possible, since that food is mostly already cooked). When I have a down time (kids in school and no work), I coupon. The balance works well for us.

  23. January 17 at 09:31AM

    I can absolutely relate to your hair tip. I used to get my hair highlighted and trimmed every 6 weeks, but when I became a SAHM, I grew my hair out and went back to my natural hair color. It saves us hundreds of dollars a year and my husband likes it better! I love the tip to shop the sales rather than putting so much time and energy into couponing. I love BOGO sales at Publix!

  24. Becky
    February 2 at 11:39AM

    I actually have a twist on the hair tip. I gave up highlighting a long time ago, for the same reasons, but a few years ago, I started perming. I know it sound weird, but here’s why: my hair was in a perpetual state of flux. It was neither curly nor straight, and was frizzy without any styling. I HAD to style it every single day, so more often than not it ended up in a ponytail, which isn’t most flattering, or professional, look for me (I work in an office). So I started getting a perm, just twice a year because my hair holds curl so well. It’s a little more expensive, but it takes less than half the time in the morning to do my hair – whether I showered that day or not. I’m spending a little more to save TONS in time and sanity – and I happen to look great with curly hair! 🙂

  25. June 11 at 03:30PM

    I’ve recently bought and joined Young Living Oils…mostly to help with my immune system and migraine/tension headaches. Which oils do you use to boost your immune system and how do you use them? I would really like to know what works because I’ve yet to find one that really helps with my headaches, stress, or that! I do plan on trying the red juice…I got a sample in my starter pack and like the taste but didn’t realize it could help with immune? I like you have gotten sick in past two years quite often do to low immune system, stress, and of course being around small children all day when I teach! I would love any suggestions you have to offer! I’ve used peppermint oil, stress relief, frankincense, thieve, etc but none seem to work well! Thanks, Kasey

  26. Bethany
    June 11 at 03:33PM

    Hahaha I have to laugh because we use the term “cake party” to mean we are just inviting family over for cake instead of a planned birthday party!

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